Bad Blonde (1953)

Bad Blonde (1953) is a British boxing noir, with the rough and tumble of the Cockney United Kingdom and the fearsome blonde posturing of Barbara Peyton as a limey femme fatale, successful putting champion boxer Tony Wright — east end good-looker and amateur to pro face-thwacker Johnny Flanagan — off his stroke.

Sid James is super effective as the powerful and charismatic coach with the wisdom of the ages in his cackle, and Frederick Valk plays an unfortunately super-hammed Italian caricature throughout, at a high pitch, playing the solid cuck.

He is a lousy husband of British noir, about to lose his beautiful wife. It's not an uncommon notion in film noir but here it's happening in the god-awful crummy UK, making their own inimitably crummy boxing movie with a lot of energy and manners.

Sid James in Bad Blonde (1953) aka The Flanagan Boy

This wife is prime film noir however, and clearly by 1953 the Limey filmmakers had got the message. The message is noir and that you were born to be blonde and born to be bad. She has her own message too, saying of her husband: "I hate him. I hate him more than anybody's ever hated anyone."

One of the fattest cliche's that the movie relies on is the boxer whose powers are spent and strained by a  beautiful woman, and then directly by sex, ultimately by the fact that in the midst of the most exciting and crazed illicit affair he could possibly have, things turn even worse for this man. Once a man he is made a sap.

High class Limey boxing match in Bad Blonde (1953)

Super mean casual and deadly bored, Barbara Payton plays an oppressed fatale whose husband is a bore and a slob, she is one of these brand of incredibly attractive film noir women that are married to incredibly unattractive and unaware older slobs and farts, and their fearful agony is the motivator for their painful dealings with the saps and heels of film noir. Examples may be Lana Turner in The Postman Always Rigs Twice and Barbara Stanwyck in that Fritz Lang 

She may be a bad blonde and much to be desired but the men mobilise to end her with extreme prejudice 

So the entire moral outlook of this film is wrong, and Barbara Payton's character must be seen as a victim, it is Tony Wright who is a murderer and self punishes by suicide, although the remaining blokes in this tragedy of error and rejection and painful longing and loathing, and cock-teasing and insanity, and boxing too, decide that it is all her fault and get her for it.

She is the bad blonde, the two are almost synonymous words anyway now that we have come this far into noir. 

United Kingdom boxing crowd — Bad Blonde (1953)

Bad Blonde, released in 1953, is a film noir that has garnered some interest among enthusiasts of the genre. According to AI however, it may not be universally considered a standout example of film noir. Much depends on the title at least until you've seen the film.

As The Flanagan Boy (1953) the production is still a film noir and British in tone it maybe never occurred to the makers that this was nothing other than the story of a boy who becomes a man and in that transition becomes a murderer and a self-serving deceit-monger to boot.

These alternate takes — The Fall of Flanagan — The Flanagan Decline — and all other Flanagan-centred renderings of this story were what sold this production into being and there it remains only as a shadow — whose story is this? That of the Flanagan boy — or that of the bad blonde? 

Flanagan becomes a man not by beating up other men in the ring, because there he is forever a boy. The ring is in fact a safe-space for the Flanagan boy, and it isn't until he gets into the family home with its adult prospects that he cracks — and cracks bad.

The Flanagan boy cracks murderously bad and loses his power the more he is driven to this bad blonde of the title. 

Tony Wright as The Flanagan Boy (1953)

Yet this is all how good guy sap and heel Tony Wright is cock-teased into insanity by Barbara Payton, doing the most proper rendition of a bad blonde you'll see that side of the Atlantic. 

Incidentally, the film was also released in the United Kingdom as The Flanagan Boy, which is not much of a title in comparison.

Barbara Payton in Bad Blonde (1953)

Small-time trainer Sharkey is staging fixed fights inside a fairground tent in Liverpool, but instead of the pre-arranged audience plant picking up the challenge to fight Sharkey’s boxer, former merchant seaman Johnny Flanagan steps up to the ring and fights for the prize. Sharkey signs him up as a boxer to be managed by Guiseppe Vechi, and things seem promising for him, but there’s the small matter of Guiseppe’s much younger wife Lorna, who sets her sights on the strapping, handsome fighter. Johnny can’t resist his desires for much longer…

Sid James in Bad Blonde (1953) aka The Flanagan Boy

Bad Blonde (1953) is one of a dozen or so film noir crime drama style or otherwise darkly-tones Hammer Films co-produced with American B-movie mogul Robert L. Lippert.

Robert L. Lippert was a prolific American producer
  • There is No Escape (1949) aka The Dark Road
  • The Last Page (1952) aka Man Bait
  • Wings of Danger (1952) aka Dead on Course
  • Stolen Face (1952)
  • Lady in the Fog (1952) aka Scotland Yard Inspector
  • Gambler and the Lady (1952)
  • Bad Blonde (1953)
  • 36 Hours (1953) aka Terror Street
  • Face the Music (1953) aka The Black Glove
  • Spaceways (1953)
  • Blackout (1954) aka Murder by Proxy
  • The House Across the Lake (1954) aka Heat Wave
  • A Stranger Came Home (1954) aka The Unholy Four
  • Mask of Dust (1954) aka Race for Life
  • Third Party Risk (1954) aka The Big Deadly Game
  • Five Days (1954) aka Paid to Kill
  • Life with the Lyons (1954) aka Family Affair
  • The Glass Cage (1955) aka The Glass Tomb
  • The Quatermass Xperiment (1955)

Hot idiocy leads to murder either way, depending on whether this is aka or not. That poor murderous weak and foolish Flanagan boy — 

Barbara Payton and Tony Wright in Bad Blonde (1953)

Barbara Payton in Bad Blonde (1953)

Tony Wright in Bad Blonde (1953)

Mediterranean justice arrives in England at a small provincial railway station. This is in large and most enjoyably brought to bear by the powerful work of actor Selma Vas Dias. Her cinematic credits include performances in the films of major British directors, including Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes (1938) and Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's One of Our Aircraft Is Missing (1942). She also appeared in Ernest Morris' The Tell-Tale Heart (1960).

Dias also played Solange in the two British premières (the first, given in French, the second, in English) of Jean Genet's The Maids, both of which were directed by Peter Zadek, in 1952 and 1956 respectively. She also played the lead role, Irma (a brothel madam), in the world première of Genet's The Balcony, which opened on 22 April 1957, in a production directed by Zadek at the Arts Theatre Club, a "private theatre club" that enabled the production to circumvent the Lord Chamberlain's ban on public performances of the play.

If you know your Genet you'll know we are dealing here with what was the 1950s the most cutting edge philosophical and homosexual and sexually awake theatre of the age, from one of the early oto mid 20th century's most significant writers.

Barbara Payton in Bad Blonde (1953)

Frederick Valk in Bad Blonde (1953)

With the removal of the ageing and overweight husband to the surface of the water this immediately becomes a lousy husband murder rap. Frederick Valk, who plays the lousy and lazy and trusting husband died suddenly in London on 23 July 1956 during the run of the play Romanoff and Juliet in which he was appearing. 

His wife Diana subsequently wrote a memoir entitled Shylock for a Summer in which she revealed that Valk had been planning to write an autobiography at the time of his death, and had written a note to himself stating: "I don't want to talk at length of my histrionic adventures – the idea of this is to draw a curve of a life, lived in shadow and sun but lived with gratefulness."

Bad Blonde incorporates a perfectly prepared plethora classic film noir elements, including a morally ambiguous protagonist, a femme fatale, a crime-driven plot, and moody cinematography. These elements contribute to the film's noir atmosphere. The strangeness of the Italian family that appear in England to enact a black-clad revenge is an eccentric but also sinister touch.

Barbara Payton in Bad Blonde (1953)

The film features a strong femme fatale character, played by Barbara Payton. Femme fatales are a central element in many film noirs, and they often bring complexity and intrigue to the narrative. Payton's performance in the role has been highlighted by some viewers.

Crime and Betrayal: Like many film noirs, "Bad Blonde" revolves around crime, deception, and betrayal. The storyline involves a plot to frame a man for a crime he didn't commit, and the characters become entangled in a web of deceit.

Tony Wright with the dumb and blonde look in Bad Blonde (1953)

Some viewers appreciate the film for its low-budget, B-movie charm. While it may not have the production values of bigger studio noirs, the film's grittier and more independent feel can be appealing to fans of classic, low-budget cinema.

Contrasting the bad blonde of the title, comes the good lady in black, some somebody is being jived here, and there is a riff on something. This is not a typical film heroine, but let us see who saves the day in Bad Blonde (1953).

Selma Vaz Dias in Bad Blonde (1953)

Bad Blonde may not be as widely celebrated or well-known as some other film noirs from the same era but it certainly did better in the States with that title. Viewers' enjoyment of the film might depend on their preferences for specific noir elements, appreciation for low-budget productions, and tolerance for the film's inherent limitations. Still, and for its character and strangeness does hold up well in the pantheon of British Film Noir.

A heartlessly received entreating climax in Bad Blonde (1953)

As with any film, individual opinions about its quality can vary. If you enjoy classic film noir and are interested in exploring lesser-known titles from the genre, "Bad Blonde" might be worth a watch for its adherence to noir conventions and the unique characteristics that make it distinct within the film noir landscape.

Sid James, Tony Wright, Barbara Payton and John Slater, and only one of these is a 
Bad Blonde (1955)


Bad Blonde aka The Flanagan Boy (1953)
Directed by Reginald Le Borg
Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Thriller  |   Release Date - Apr 10, 1953 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 79 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom  |  

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